Our first day in Normandy was long and jam-packed. But it clearly had an effect on the Normandy Scholars, particularly Pegasus Bridge and the home of Marie-louise Osmont. Our scholar-bloggers explain Pegasus Bridge but only mention the home of Osmont, although the Osmont home was rather emotional for the group. The student an dteacher scholars read The Diary of Marie-Louise Osmont, written in the months leading up to D-Day and after. It tells the tale of what ordinary, French civilians experienced as their homes were occupied first by the Germans and then by the British, and their homes were bombed and neighbors and loved ones killed. It is an excellent primary source through which our scholars came to know and love Mrs. Osmont and her story. We were fortunate to find her home (still intact), the church she attended down the road, and, most of all, her grave where we paid our respects and left one of our French/US flag pins.
Most of our students had never been abroad before (and many had never flown on an airplane), so the opportunity to enjoy and experience French culture and food was fun and exciting:
“Today was my first full day in France. I had already been awed by the beauty of bustling Bayeux, and how cute all the little restaurants looked! I was definitely ready to experience Pegasus Bridge and the museum, after a refreshing evening at our wonderful hotel. We first set foot on the Pegasus Bridge grounds to clouds, but as our stay continued the sun slowly started to peak out from behind the clouds, foreshadowing a great day to come. It was so incredibly eerie to feel the presence of such courageous men, as Professor Long put it, “This operation was really a hole in one.” We then ate a tasty lunch at the Pegasus Café, which was the first building liberated by the British back in 1944.
Soon after Pegasus Bridge, we traveled to a German 5 story bunker, where I got the honor to read my briefing on Medical Service in Normandy. My favorite part of the bunker was the DUCK; it was so amazing to see exactly what the men had to run out of onto the beach of Omaha. We also visited the eastern mulberry, and eyed German gunners. My favorite part while we were out on the road was finding Marie-Louise Osmont’s grave and house. It was so incredible to read all about a situation and then see where it took place.
When we arrived back in Bayeux we went to explore the Bayeux Cathedral which was the most awe-inspiring thing I saw during the day. I love World War 2, don’t get me wrong, but I have an extreme fascination with 1400’s gothic architecture. It is amazing to think that over 600 years men and women have congregated in this wholly site. I topped of the day with Mrs. O’Day, Erick, Ethan and Phalguni at a restaurant very near the Bayeux Cathedral. Thank you Albert Small!”
Joseph, student, Washington
What a day! I was already halfway through Pegasus Bridge, by Stephen Ambrose, when we visited that historic location! As I read, I had been marveling at the logistics, and the dedication of Major John Howard to making sure all his men knew exactly what to do. His mission: to prevent the Germans from destroying a bridge on the left or eastward end of what was to be the D-Day invasion and secure it for the allies. The plan: to land six gliders at night loaded with 30 men along with their equipment on a narrow strip of land between the River Orne and the Caen Canal and seize the bridge. It was the first successful mission of D-Day, and an amazing story. You can imagine what a thrill it was to walk on the bridge, see some of the equipment, including a model of the Horsa glider used for the operation, and be instructed on the event by a very talented French tour guide.
After that, we got to eat lunch at the Café Gondrée where information about German activities was being funneled to the British. Will we ever get tired of that delicious crusty French bread?
At the end of my day, I rented a bicycle and went on a 30 km ride. I rode all around Bayeux, and then returned to Arramanches for another look at the Mulberries. This time, the tide was out, and they looked even more impressive.
Tricia Billes, teacher, Washington